Monday, September 26, 2011

The Language of the Stones-Artist Residency Ireland

After spending time in the sacred sites of Loughcrew, and  Newgrange, I have been wondering about the meaning of the carvings on the stones.  Were they a language of some sort, telling about the purpose of the cairns, did they track the entrance of the sun into the chambers, were they simply a kind of decoration?  

When I came into my cottage here at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, I found some words scratched onto a heart-shaped slate that a previous tenant had left behind.  Lovely that the word is Brave.  The word 'courage' comes from coeur, French for heart.  Be Brave.  What a wonderful motto to begin my residency here.  And now I'm in the final few days of the residency and so I'm looking at my work and hoping that I have been brave.

In response to the Be Brave carving, I found a Yeats quote about courage.  I did a small installation piece down by the lake, carving the quote onto some small slates that I found by the boathouse.  It reads: "Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle?  A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself".

Here are a few of the pieces I've created in Studio 2. 
 At home I use cold wax medium and oil paint, but for ease of transportation, I brought along acrylics and heavy body gel medium.  I brought 11x 14" multimedia artboard panels to paint on, giving myself the challenge of working in a new medium on a new medium!  The panels are made of paper that is coated with resin. They need no priming or sealing.   I normally work in a fairly large format at home and found the 11 x 14 " size a bit constraining.  So I made them into multi-panel pieces. 

I'm working with the idea of the language of the stones.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Artist Residency Ireland-Newgrange and Lough Crew

Before I came to the artist residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, I stayed with my friend Mary in Dublin whose passion is visiting the sacred sites across this country.  She took Rebecca Crowell and me out to Loughcrew, Slieve na Calliagh, the hill of the witch or hag's mountain.  Read Rebecca's blog posts of this residency too.

The remains at Loughcrew are passage tombs, a particular style of neolithic architecture.  They have a passage, ordinarily long and narrow, which opens into a domed chamber.  We first went to Carnbane East.  It was a long, rainy and wildly windy walk to the top of the hill to Cairn T (sometimes called the Hag's Cairn).  We had collected the key for the passage tomb at the Loughcrew Historic Gardens Coffee Shop.  Imagine that we were able to go into this cairn and sit inside, in the dark, beside these incredible stones! Cairn T is oriented to the autumn equinox, which happens within the next three days.  At the autumn equinox, the rising sun shines into the back of this chamber, lighting up the carvings in a sequence as the shaft of sunlight makes it's way across the chamber wall.  The two photos below were shot with only with the available light that was shining into the tomb on September 10th.

After taking our fill of photos, we sat quietly for a while. in the dark of the chamber, amazed and grateful to be here. Afterward, Mary, Rebecca and I had a picnic lunch and hot tea in the shelter of the rocks just outside the door of Cairn T.

We hiked over to another hill, Carnbane West on this windy day that was sometimes sunny, sometimes pouring with rain.  We couldn't get into the chamber there, but climbed around the stones and took photos of the carvings and lichen on the megaliths.

Last Friday, three of us from the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, hired a cab and drove to Newgrange, a world heritage site in County Meath.  Estimated to be 5000 years old, it is  the largest and one of the most important prehistoric megalithic sites in EuropeIt was a whole different experience than Loughcrew, but also one not to be missed.  The area is called the Boyne Valley complex, which consists of three sites: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.  We went only to Newgrange.  I came to this site in 1998 when I did a workshop at Dunderry, here in Ireland.  We had the tremendous privilege then of going into the chamber in a small group, before the general public came in and chanting for 1/2 hour.  It was an incredible experience. On this trip, we went with a group and a guide and stayed for probably 10 minutes in the chamber.  All is carefully orchestrated.  No sitting on the floor of the chamber in the dark, leaning against the stones, as we had done at Loughcrew.

Approaching Newgrange in the rain.

Waiting to go into the chamber.  Pouring outside.

One of the kerbstones along the outside at the back.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Artist Residency Ireland

For the month of September I'm doing an artist residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan, Ireland.  The 450 acres and buildings are stunningly beautiful.
Tyrone Guthrie (1900-1971) was an acclaimed English theatre director who also wrote plays for radio, including one series that he wrote in Montreal on Canadian history for the Canadian National Railways Radio, which eventually became the CBC.
In 1953, he was invited to help launch the Stratford Festival of Canada. Intrigued with the idea of starting a Shakespeare theatre in a remote Canadian location, he enlisted actors Alec Guinness and Irene Worth to star in the inaugural production of Richard III. All performances in the first seasons took place in a large tent on the banks of the Avon River. He remained as Artistic Director for three seasons, and his work at Stratford had a strong influence in the development of Canadian theatre. 

I'm staying in one of the self-catering cottages, pictured above.

The sitting room of my cottage.

The walking path along the lake in front of the Centre.

Horses in the field at the end of the lake.

My artist friend from Wisconsin, Rebecca Crowell is here at the same time as me. We've been here three days now and I'm beginning to settle down from all the newness and excitement.  As he was showing us around on the first day, Paddy-the "go-to" person here-said that this place is the 'centre of loveliness'.  What a positive way to begin our residency here.

 We went for dinner in the big house last night and met the artists who are residents at the changes constantly. Twelve artists were at the table for dinner last night.  Some people come for a month or six weeks, others come for one week.  Many are from Ireland and many are writers or poets or multi-discipline artists.  Most have been here numerous times.  One of the musicians is leaving tomorrow and so someone suggested that we have a 'session' in the music room.  The music room is an enormous open space, with a wide-planked wooden floor covered with a thick blue carpet.  Tall windows open up to the courtyard below.  A huge, ornate chandelier hangs from the 15' ceiling and a grand piano sits ready to play.  One slim, intense man from Switzerland plays electric guitar.  A small slender blonde woman from Germany improvised with him.  She plays viola and does voice improv along with her own playing.  She used every sound imaginable with her voice, nose and throat (although not a beat box kind of sound)...and was accompanied by the was absolutely incredible. When I closed my eyes her voice became another instrument playing every range of sound and emotion.  Then, another man in the group, who is an Irish-born poet, spoke one of his poems to the voice/guitar sounds while another women artist did some improv chanting.  The performance made me cry it was so haunting and lovely.  The poet/voice/guitar group improvised three pieces together, and another woman read a story she'd written, then sang A cappella. 

If I get nothing else out of this residency, this one evening would be enough.